As a young boy, Chris Lyons was an active kid who enjoyed playing sports and cheering on the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies. Although he often complained of a pain in his side after running around, it would disappear on its own. By the time Chris turned 12, doctors attributed his discomfort to an enlarged kidney. Several months later, in February of 1999, doctors felt that Chris would benefit from a kidney transplant. Just two days before his 13th birthday, Chris was the lucky recipient of his mom's kidney - and to this day his body has accepted the new organ without trouble.
Chris recovered from surgery, returned to school and was active in student government. He graduated from Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia in June 2004. "I was on top of the world," said Chris, who was scheduled to start college that fall at Temple University. Several weeks later, Chris' health began to decline.
Chris started chemotherapy and college in the same week.
"Our world came crashing down when we learned Chris had Hodgkin's Lymphoma," recalled his mother, Debbie. "Because he was still considered a minor, Chris was treated at a pediatric hospital in Philadelphia. He started chemotherapy and college in the same week."
Chris had successful treatment and continued along with his studies. Although the Lyons' were pleased with their son's care, they brought Chris to Fox Chase Cancer Center for a second opinion on his treatment recommendations. They met with a care team including medical oncologist Mitchell Smith, MD. "My parents really liked the doctors at Fox Chase, but we decided to stay where we were," explained Chris.
"We decided to switch to Fox Chase for good."
In January 2006, Chris's doctors found something suspicious on his PET scan. "That's when we decided to switch to Fox Chase for good," said Chris, who became a patient of Dr. Smith's. Chris's first step at Fox Chase was surgery to remove his spleen, followed by radiation therapy that summer. James C. Watson, MD, a surgical oncologist, performed the procedure and Chris recovered nicely. He took a break from treatment and had another course of radiation the following fall.
Chris's doctor suggested an alternative to bone marrow transplant - and it worked.
"Chris's radiation oncologist is so smart," shared Debbie, whose son avoided a bone marrow transplant because the radiation was so effective. "We were very confident with his advice. And when his cancer came back, we knew Fox Chase was where we wanted to be."
The Lyons' could not sit back and relax. Every time they thought his treatment was behind them, Chris would present with another area of recurrence. By the summer of 2008, Dr. Smith noticed an abnormality on his tests. He waited 6 weeks and performed the test again, but by then, the spot had disappeared.
Several months passed, and Chris had more routine tests performed. "The spot appeared in the same exact location as it did the previous summer," recalled Chris. "Dr. Smith was curious as to what was going on, because the spot went away on its own before, which is not typical of lymphoma."
A biopsy revealed that the Hodgkin's lymphoma was back. After witnessing the spot appear and disappear the summer of 2008, Dr. Smith believed that the cancer was directly tied to Chris' immunosuppression medication. He recommended treatment with Rituxan, a drug typically used to treat Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Chris finished the treatment in April 2009.
"We were very pleased to see Chris respond so well to the Rituxan," explained Dr. Smith, who tracks Chris's progress through periodic checkups.
"It worked! Dr. Smith really knows what he is doing. And all is well for now," shared Chris, in late 2009 at the age of 23.
"We are so pleased with the care our son has received at Fox Chase."
"We are so pleased with the care our son has received at Fox Chase," his mom added. "Everyone we've met is wonderful. Chris graduated on time and with honors from Temple University in May 2008." In the summer of 2009, Chris landed his first job - working in the marketing department of a small information technology firm. His family hopes this is the start to the next chapter of his life.